Pairings: JR/Erin; assorted others of different varieties...
Arcs: Michael Cambias, Babygate, etc
Timeline: Early October 2003, and then through...
Notes: The biggest problem of this entire fic, of course, is the fact that Jon and Erin didn't even exist at this time - I know this, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone, refused to. Basic storyline revolves around the idea that instead of bringing home Babe in 2003, he brought home Erin - and the things that are changed because of it, in relation to other connections and story arcs, and there are quite a few changes. Some things happen, and some things don't - and the relationship between Ryan and his siblings is just one of the things that is drastically different, as is Erin, and, yes, Jon, when he comes into the picture... At times, actual dialogue will taken from the show, but you'll be able to pick it up pretty easily, I think...
Collision, adj. — a dynamic event consisting of the interaction between two or more bodies, usually of very brief duration, resulting in a change of momentum of at least one participating body.
"That's it, somebody call Shady Acres! I'm going to retire this old man!"
Adam seemed to swell to about twice his size, eyes flying wide open and Tad enjoyed the vision of the old beast getting carted away to a place like that, no less than he deserved, was it? Nothing less than he deserved for carting other people, completely innocent people, off to insane asylums, right? "You—"
The pounding was sudden, harsh enough that it jerked Tad's awareness away from Chandler and Cortlandt, and he snapped his head around, blinking owlishly. He heard Adam suck in a sharp breath, felt his eyebrows fly up in surprise, and stood there, gawking like an idiot, for a few seconds, not sure what else to do.
"Man, oh, man. Nothing changes around here. Same old scene. But there's no place like home, right?"
For a moment, Tad just drank him in, heart fill to bursting, something like a knot in his chest lessening for the first time in months. He was aware of Adam going still, and the fact that Palmer's jaw was hanging down around his knees. JR looked healthier than he had before he had left, older, eyes harder and softer than Dixie's had been, and—
What the Hell had happened to his arm?
"So, I'm just wondering, who is she?"
"Don't have any idea what you're talking about," JR grinned, and Tad decided she had to be a blonde, had to be. JR had finally managed to get the two old idiots out of the bar, and he sat working on his beer thoughtfully, not looking too bothered by his step-father's rather intense study of him. "I've spent the last months on a big tramp steamer; you think I had time to date?"
"You look like the cat that ate the canary, even with that stump for an arm."
JR grinned again, glancing down at his arm cast, and then cocked an eyebrow at Tad, tilting his head. "Got hit by a car, a few weeks ago," he grinned, and Tad's eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hair. "You got hit?" he repeated, dumbfounded, and JR burst out laughing, draining his beer, shaking his head. "I was heading to a pier in San Diego, and walked across the street without looking."
"You could have been killed."
"I know, believe me," and JR's grin grew so much that Tad half-expected his jaw to fall off and clatter to the table they sat at. "I got the full lecture when they were setting my arm," he snickered, and Tad narrowed his eyes, suspicious light flaring in his gaze. "And did you go after the guy that hit you?"
"Nah, he felt real bad about it."
Tad thoughtfully tossed a peanut at the cast, watched it bounce off and then skitter across the floor; watched that wicked grin on JR's face somehow grow even more. "If it was a he, then apparently you've come back extremely different," he smirked, and was pleased when JR finally blushed the smallest bit. "No idea what you're talking about, Tad—"
"Careful with that nose, you could poke an eye out."
"Aw, you don't trust me?"
"Only because I know you, kiddo."
"Even so," JR started, but he couldn't keep a straight face and went back to that big grin he had, one that tugged at Tad's thoughts of Dixie in a way that made him ache. "Come on, Tad, let me have my fun, okay?" At his step-father's doubtful blink, he shrugged innocently, and poked his cast. "I'm wounded! You have to accommodate me, right?"
"If Adam explodes, it isn't going to be my fault."
"I'll help you get rid of the evidence."
Tad's heart felt odd, torn between a giddy relief at his son being here and a sudden thrill of fear at whatever girl JR had brought home. More than anything, though, he felt an almost painful kind of pride, the fragile boy now an admittedly fragile man who still had Dixie's eyes, harder but they were still hers.
As long as he could see Dixie there, everything would be fine.
"I gotta go, Tad."
"I can drive you."
"I already got myself a driver," JR snickered, and Tad made a face, lips twitching despite his attempt not to snicker himself. "And can this person drive, or does she just hit people crossing the street?" he asked, and got a look in response. "I told you, it was a guy that hit me."
"Yeah, right—" and in the next second, a peanut hit him in the back of the head before his step-son was gone, laughter finally dying away and leaving Tad in the mostly empty bar, heart still too full to handle at the moment. After a moment of thoughtful silence, he dug his cell phone and jabbed in his father's number, grinning like an idiot and fighting giggles.
JR had a girl, no doubt about it.
Here's hoping she was a sane one, though.
Next - Chandlers and Cortlandts and Martins, oh my!